Sputnik was launched in 1957 by the Soviet Union under Nikita Khrushchev as the first spacecraft to circle the earth. It stunned the world by demonstrating Soviet superiority in some forms of technology, especially the capacity to build extremely sophisticated technology and powerful rockets (which could also carry nuclear weapons). It remains a high point of Russian pride.
- Sputnik I, launched October 4, 1957, carried an artificial satellite into orbit. It caused some concern in the USA, that the Soviet Union were the first to launch a satellite into orbit. Sputnik I was about the size of a beach ball (58cm or 22.8inches in diameter), had antennas sticking out of it, contained a beeping radio transmitter, and weighed only 183 pounds. This success started the Space Race between the USSR and the USA.
- Sputnik II carried a dog named Laika (Russian: Лайка) into space on November 3, 1957. Laika was originally a stray, and she died a while after the launch.